Thursday, January 15, 2015

Adventures in Fandom: Taylor Swift Takes Over The Triple J Hottest 100

The Internet is abuzz(feed) about the possibly of Taylor Swift’s pop hit “Shake it Off” making it into the Triple J Hottest 100. A harmless joke? A heartless campaign for Buzzfeed hits? An affront to Australian musics most important day? Or simply the chance to show some love for a DAMN good song? The answer is probably all of the above, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. In fact it could be just the kick in the butt the Hottest 100 needs. 

For those of you that aren’t lucky enough to have experienced it, the Triple J Hottest 100 is an annual music poll to determine the HOTTEST (most voted for) song of the year. The countdown - from 100 to 1 - is then played in full on Australia Day (Jan 26th). The poll is often touted as the world’s biggest music democracy, but as with all art based event, there’s a certain amount of cultural gatekeeping going on. 

Taylor Swift being included in a list of hottest songs of 2014 is hardly shocking, except that none of the songs on 1989 have ever been played on Triple J because the station generally focuses on unknown and/or local acts. That’s not to say that TripleJ doesn’t play pop. Because it does. A lot. Many of the past Hottest 100 winners have been about as pop as it comes. But for reasons that I’m sure are important to someone, there is an arbitrary line between Triple J sanctioned pop and that trash commercial radio stations play. Unfortunately that line is usually drawn around anything teenage girls like. 

This is not to say that Triple J doesn’t offer a vital service to Australian music lovers. Or that teenage girls don’t like or listen to Triple J. I was a teenage girl and I was an avid Triple J listener, I still am. I just also happen to enjoy Taylor Swift as well. 

What’s the deal with the #TayforHottest100 campaign? 

Here’s what happened, Buzzfeed’s Mark Di Stefano made a post asking: “Why Isn’t Everyone Voting For “Shake It Off” In The Hottest 100?” (He even included a handy guide on how to vote for the song). Say what you want about Buzzfeed (yes we all want to burn it down sometimes but there’s a reason it’s so popular), they certainly know how to get people talking. And boy did people talk. The hashtag #TayforHottest100 trended on Twitter in Australia, the bookies started taking bets on “Shake it Off’s” odds to win and hundreds of think pieces - just like this one - started to pop up all over the place. 

It seems everyone has a reason for voting or not voting for Taylor Swift. Many want to stick to the “hipsters” by voting for a song that it is uncool to vote for, (which makes the people voting for T-Swift hipsters). Some just think the whole thing is a hilarious joke, after all “Shake it Off” wouldn’t be the worst song to make the list or even top it. And some just really really like Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. But let’s be real, it doesn’t really matter. 

Look, Taylor Swift wouldn’t be the first candidate without any Triple J airplay to make it into the top 100. cites: Foo Fighter’s “Wheels”, Green Day’s “Good Riddance” and U2’s “Elevation”. They also state that Alanis Morissette got 3 songs into 1995’s Hottest 100 without a single play. She wouldn’t even be the first mainstream pop artist to snake the number 1 spot: The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) won in 1998 and Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” took it in 2012. And let’s not forget that the top 2 spots in last years countdown were taken by T-Swift’s celebrity BFF Lorde and the opening act for her Australian tour Vance Joy. 

The reality is that if Taylor Swift makes the list it’s hardly groundbreaking. It’s certainly not going to drastically alter Triple J’s standard playlist. Besides, Taylor Swift’s 1989 is pretty much universally considered to be a cross over hit and the song “Shake It Off” was recently covered by another Hottest 100 front runner Milky Chance on Triple J’s popular Like a Version segment. It’s not exactly uncool to come out as a Taylor Swift fan. 

Apart from the fact that if Taylor Swift win’s she will be THE FIRST solo female artist to make it to number 1 in the Hottest 100 - the best thing about the #TayforHottest100 is that it’s fun. Triple J’s Hottest 100 has become such a staple that it’s lost some of its excitement. Sure more and more people are voting but they don’t seem all that into it. There should be hashtag wars and massive campaigns happening every year but there’s not and that’s a massive waste. This competition is HUGE, but it somehow doesn’t feel like it. The #TayforHottest100 has injected a little passion back into the voting process and that can’t be a bad thing.  

Whether people are passionate about voting for T-Swift or against her, it’s certainly fun to watch. I guarantee you everybody will be listening intently come January 26th to find out if “Shake it Off” made the list.